Ranjona Banerji: Of corporate and their Twitter handles

10 Sep,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


How are corporates supposed to use social media? Some of us have found that if you send a complaint to a company’s Twitter handle, you get a quicker response than fruitless and frustrating hours spent trying to get through to a call centre. That is, the call centre calls you. I have thus successfully negotiated a couple of problems with Vodafone through Twitter. However, I really don’t know why Vodafone has a Twitter handle. Or more particularly, whether the Vodafone Twitter account exists to supplement or augment its existing customer care systems. I suspect not.


Anyway, I now follow Vodafone India on Twitter. I observed that many of their tweets would follow this pattern: “Dear Sir, thank you for your feedback. An executive will be in touch with you shortly”. A while later it would be (usually to the same person): “Our executive tried to get in touch with you but your number was unavailable.


For no reason except silliness, I sent a tweet to Vodafone saying that it does not look good when a phone company declares publicly that its own numbers are “unavailable” to it. Well, I paid the price for laughing at them. I promptly got a tweet in reply saying “Thank you for your feedback. An executive will be in touch with you shortly.” And shortly, (all right, bang in the middle of a Sunday afternoon snooze) there was an executive calling to say, ‘Madam, you made a complaint?”
Rather than explain, I just said very sorry, no complaint and disconnected. The idea of explaining my joke to customer care and the irony of a phone company not being able to get through to its own subscribers was too frightening to attempt. I admit it. My courage failed. But the question remains. Does @VodafoneIN exist to answer customer complaints or is it supposed to have a wider purpose like publicising its offline and online events, promoting its products and services and drawing attention to its mainstream commercials? At the moment, it seems burdened with angry customers which might mean someone else is not doing their job?
It is worth noting that some companies and their Twitter handles never respond. I have never got anything out of complaining to @StarSportsIndia (and its earlier avatar before the split with ESPN) over its bizarre programming re: tennis. But I have very often got responses from @ten_sports. So is that arrogance on the part of Star Sports or just an inability to answer questions that are outside its brief? The most entertaining to engage with was the Twitter handle for BBC Entertainment for as long as the channel broadcast was in India.




[youtube width=”400″ height=”220″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE[/youtube]That Old Spice India failed in its conversion of its very successful commercials with Isaiah Mustafa, a former American footballer and now TV star is apparent. For some reason, they dubbed Mustafa’s voice which is a vital ingredient to the success of the “Look at your man, now back at me” line.


This partial adaptation to Indian “needs” is as foolish as the subtitlers and bleepers for American TV programmes shown in India where the character says “bastard” and the subtitle reads “turd”. I don’t know about you, but for my money, “turd” is worse. Bastard after all just means that someone’s mummy and daddy didn’t tie the knot; better than being called a lump of faeces.


The Park Avenue take off on Old Spice with the beer shampoo for “Man Hair” commercial is funny and effective and I would much rather a man with bouncy and shiny “man hair” with shampoo bubbles coming out of his mouth than a man concerned with the effect of the sun on his complexion. To use a phrase from Twitterland: #JustSaying.




There were no newspapers in Mumbai, today, September 10, 2013. Hence…


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